Monday, April 26, 2010

What this is about

The idea for this blog came from an editorial and several news stories in the Times&Transcript in the week of April 21. The editorial was on the recent publication of school rankings as based on standardized education testing.

I have no interest in a general attack on the paper. The Moncton Times&Transcript is a paper much like any other small city daily across Canada. As with most such papers, its local news is heavy on local boosterism. It had better be if it hopes to survive in a shrinking print market, and if it wants to attract advertising. The sports staff is good. It has to be. The news media in general can get away with sending the village idiot to cover trivia like education, politics and nuclear war. But God help the paper that tries to sell sports news written by a staff that doesn't know the nickname of the player who assisted on the last goal of a big game. Celebrity gossip gets similar attention and expertise. That's not the paper's fault. That's ours.

Canadian and World News, reflecting a general lack of interest in it, is slim. As well, its language is heavy on propaganda. Muslims who set bombs to kill at random are "terrorists". American religious cranks who do the same are "militias". Western pilots who to the same from a couple of thousand feet are "heroes". Pilotless drones that do it are "life savers". But that's pretty much in line with most Canadian news media. At worse, it comes nowhere close the debasing of journalism that has happened south of the border.

On the positive side, The Moncton Times&Transcript has some solid columnists, indeed. Despite a few hacks of the worst sort (and you will find those in any paper), the majority of the columnists would be a credit to any newspaper -and at least two are quite oustanding.

What drags the Times&Transcript down is the quality of editing, particularly in the selection of items for the news pages. And even deeper into the gloom and bottom ooze are the editorials.
A close reading of them suggests what is really wrong with the paper, and why it is not going to get better.

It was the news stories on standardized testing that got to me. It was the publication of school rankings that got to me. It was, above all, the dreadful kiss-up tone and general ignorance of the education in the editorial that got to me. All of these indicate a failure of the Times&Transcript to give adequate information to readers so they can understand the news. It is a failure so obvious it can only be deliberate. And that makes it dishonest.

I plan to write several blogs covering...

1. Why, on a continent that has thousands of world rank authorities on education, does the New Brunswick Department of Education take educational direction from the Atantic Institute of Marketing Studies?

2. What is the Atlantic Institute of Marketing Studies? Why would it be offering advice on how to teach children? Why, for that matter, is it in charge of the testing?

3. Does the editorialist for the Times&Transcript have any training or experience in education? His or her editorials seems to display an abysmal ignorance of the subject. Surely, an editor would be wise to stay from such a topic. That's why we see so few editorials on brain surgery, quantum mathematics, or how to knot a knecktie. So why was this editorial written?

4. What is the motive behind standardized education and testing? And why is it not only a bad idea, but a terribly destructive one? In fact, far from being new, it's an idea at least a hundred fifty years old - and a bad one from the start.

I look forward to hearing a variety of opinions in response. Feel free to range over both strong and weak points of the Times&Transcript.


  1. Graeme also said,"forgive me for at least three, glaring typos. I can't figure how to edit this thing after I post it."